E3 06: 50 Cent: Bulletproof Hands-On

We get G'd up with a top-down action game for the PSP.

LOS ANGELES--50 Cent: Bulletproof for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox was the object of much derision when it came out late last year, and with its shoddy gameplay, excessive-yet-hollow violence, and most surprisingly of all, its fumbling of the G-Unit license, the low marks it received were wholly justified. Just like in real-life, though, 50 is getting a second chance with 50 Cent: Bulletproof for the PlayStation Portable, which provides a much different take on the concept, one that already seems to have much more potential.

Rather than playing as a third-person shooter, Bulletproof on the PSP is played from a top-down perspective, and the gameplay comes across a bit like a Diablo-style action role-playing game--though with guns and drugs instead of wizards and warriors, of course. In the mission we played in the 70-percent complete version of the game that's playable at Sony's booth here at E3 2006, we were tasked with scouring a warehouse for several kilos of product that 50 needed to recover, which were neatly marked on our minimap with exclamation points. Of course, there were several SWAT-looking security guards, as well as some straight-up street thugs, who wanted to keep us from getting ours.

At the start of the mission, we had only a pistol and our dukes to throw down with, though just a few steps into the warehouse we found a crate that, when we busted it up, revealed a fully loaded Uzi. After picking up the Uzi, we held down the triangle button to bring up a wheel-based weapon menu, which made it fast and easy to switch weapons on the fly. With our Uzi in hand, using the game's lock-on targeting to take out the first guard we encountered was a breeze. As we circle-strafed around our enemy, we got a very direct sense of how much damage we were dealing out, thanks to the hit-point numbers that appeared over the guard every time a bullet hit.

After finding the first crate containing one of our kilos, we were confronted with a group of enemies that would've made short work of us if we had just gone toe to toe. So instead, we ran up to one of the enemies and tapped the triangle button, which caused 50 to grab the enemy and use him as a human shield. We continued like this through the level, and though the gameplay wasn't particularly innovative, we found it to be responsive and fun. There was a satisfaction to the gunplay, thanks in no small part to some nice muzzle flash. We were able to get into a bit of melee action, both bare-fisted and with a riot baton that we picked up in the warehouse, which had a good feel to it but naturally didn't seem as effective as the firearms, making it a bit of a last resort for when we were totally out of ammo.

The presentation seemed generally in line with the console versions of 50 Cent: Bulletproof, at least from an aesthetic perspective. The environments were dingy and run down, with a lot of browns and grays in the color palette that felt appropriate for the rather gritty urban areas that the game is set in. We're honestly a bit surprised to find that 50 Cent: Bulletproof for the PSP has as much potential as it does, considering the less-than-illustrious legacy that precedes it, though it probably doesn't hurt that High Voltage Software, a developer with established experience in dungeon-crawler gameplay, is at the helm. 50 Cent: Bulletproof is set to hit the PSP this August.

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